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The Complicated Past Between Thomas Magnum And Capt. Buck Greene On Magnum P.I., Explained

Once a mentor figure to Thomas Magnum, Capt. Buck Greene knowingly sent Thomas Magnum on a “suicide mission” to try to save his own son.

By Jill Sederstrom

Magnum P.I.’s Thomas Magnum freely admits that Capt. Buck Greene is one of the men who had the biggest impact on his life — but the relationship between the two men is complicated. 

Who Was Captain Buck Greene on Magnum P.I.?

James Remar is Magnum P.I.'s Captain Greene

How to Watch

Watch Magnum P.I. on NBC and Peacock.    

Greene died at the start of Season 5 after being tortured for information about Magnum, played by Jay Hernandez, and his fellow military buddies Rick Wright and Theodore “TC” Calvin. While Greene gave his life to protect the men’s identities, he was once willing to sacrifice Magnum’s life in a shocking Season 2 twist.

As his superior, Greene, portrayed by James Remar, served as a mentor and was the man responsible for putting together the elite military team that included Magnum, fellow Navy SEAL Sebastian Nuzo (who died in the series premiere) and Marines Wright and Calvin. 

“Outside of my dad and uncle, there’s really no man that had more of an impact on my life than Greene,” Magnum confided to his partner Juliet Higgins after he disappeared earlier this season.

The team was tasked with carrying out some of the government’s most covert missions during the war against Afghanistan — but let’s just say Magnum and Greene didn’t always see eye-to-eye. 

After Nuzo, Magnum, Wright, and Calvin go off the Kandahar base without permission to help Nuzo’s brother Paulie look for a local woman and her young son, barely escaping enemy fire with their lives, Greene isn’t shy about voicing his disappointment. 

“As much as I want to tear you guys a new one, I’m not going to give myself a heart attack. What I am going to do is take away every single personal freedom that you guys have while you’re still here on the military’s payroll,” he told the stoic group of soldiers. “There is a difference between being good sailors and Marines and just plain stupidity. You can call it an act of brotherhood, you can call it whatever you want. You pull a stunt like this again and you’re going to wish you ended up on that mountain with the rest of those bodies.” 

Then in Season 2’s “Day I Met the Devil,” Greene called Magnum, who was now working in Hawaii as a charmingly effective private investigator, into his office and told him that he had been reactivated for a special top secret mission to “snatch and grab” fugitive arms dealer Merwan Hayek, using his old cover as an arms dealer. 

Magnum tried to take his own team to carry out the mission, but Greene insisted that he take a team Greene had handpicked himself, including a CIA case officer and weapons analyst Gene Curtis, played by Peter Facinelli. Magnum headed to the Triple Frontier — described as a “lawless area” between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina — without giving his friends any details about the covert operation.

It wasn’t long before Magnum realized his team members weren’t who they said they were and he escaped into the jungle with Hayek. They were caught by Curtis ,who revealed his real identity as a dangerous villain named Ivan.

Ivan was intent on discovering the true identity of the “White Knight” from Robin Masters' books throughout the second season, even sending a team of mercenaries to break into Robin's Nest to torture Juliet Higgins for the information.

Ivan discovered that Magnum is the “White Knight” and kidnapped Greene’s son David, promising Greene he would release David if the captain agreed to send Magnum on the suicide mission to the Triple Frontier. 

Not surprisingly, though, it turned Ivan wasn’t a man of his word and killed David anyway. After his son’s tragic death, Greene reached out to Calvin and confessed Magnum was most likely going to die on the mission. 

Calvin, Higgins, Wright, Detective Gordon Katsumoto, and fellow vet Shammy used Masters' private jet to fly to the Triple Frontier and saved Magnum. 

What Happened to Buck Greene on Magnum P.I.?

A guilt-ridden Greene decided to resign his commission and step away from military life, but not before trying to make amends with Magnum.

“I am truly sorry for what I did to you, Magnum,” he said. 

Magnum is more forgiving than most and graciously accepted the apology. 

“I understand why you did it, sir,” he said. “I don’t know if you know this, but your son was one of the first people I led into battle. He didn’t disappoint. He was a good man and a good soldier.”

Greene told Magnum that he made him "and our country very proud.”

Just before Greene walked away, Magnum saluted his former superior as Greene’s eyes filled with tears. 

With a complex history like that, it’s no surprise that Greene wasn’t willing to sell out Magnum a second time — and when he’s kidnapped in Season 5 by a new group of people trying to find out the identities of the elite team of soldiers under his command, he dies from a heart attack while being waterboarded. 

Magnum and his team took out a target named Aman Hadid seven years earlier in Afghanistan and someone is seeking revenge for the death. 

To find out who may have it out for Magnum, Calvin, and Wright this time around, tune in to new episodes of Magnum P.I. coming soon to NBC. Episodes are streaming now on Peacock.

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